Monday, December 17, 2007

Apricot Pecan Caramels

While traveling in Brussels, Belgium last summer, I discovered this beautiful store called La Cure Gourmande. It is the most scrumptious store I've ever seen, filled with candy, cookies, caramels, and nougats. I bought some caramels and nougats, and then went back to buy more. Everything made me drool and was packaged beautifully. The caramels and nougats were unique - filled with nuts and dried fruit. I was determined to replicate them for Christmas gifts. So I searched the internet for recipes. First I tried making nougats - they were good, but a bit too chewy and dangerous to tooth fillings. But over the weekend, I tried a recipe from Epicurious for Fleur de Sel Caramels, and it was a winner. I added the pecans and apricots for a unique taste like I had this summer. The only thing I don't like about this recipe is the tedious task of wrapping each one in plastic wrap. I plan to try some other dried fruit and nut combinations - I'll let you know how they turn out! And if I don't eat them all in the next week, I may even have some left to share with my friends for Christmas!

Apricot Pecan Caramels

1 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon fleur de sel (or kosher salt)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped into large pieces
1/3 cup pecans, chopped into large pieces

Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper. Lightly oil parchment. (Do not use waxed paper, as it tends to stick to the caramel.)

Bring cream, butter, and fleur de sel to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and set aside.

Boil sugar, corn syrup, and water in a large heavy saucepan, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Boil, without stirring, gently swirling the pan every few minutes, until mixture is a light golden caramel.

Slowly stir in the cream mixture. (It will bubble up.) Simmer the mixture, stirring frequently, until the thermometer registers 248°F, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Add the apricots and pecans. (Add an additional teaspoon of fleur de sel, if you wish.) Pour into the baking pan and cool 2 hours.

Cut the caramel into strips of about 1 and 1/2 inches wide using a pizza cutter. Then cut the strips apart into pieces using scissors. Wrap each piece in plastic wrap or waxed paper.

(note: I discovered after the caramels set for a few days, they get a little moist around the dried fruit. Guess you just have to eat them fast before that happens!)

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